Carmen Ariza Part 194

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"And then we fled," continued Ames. "I was rich; I was roaming the world, extending my vast business interests; and I took her to Colombia, where I labored with the politicians in Bogota to grant me timber and cattle concessions. We had a cottage on the outskirts of the city, where we were happy. With us lived her faithful old nurse, whom she would not leave in Spain--

"Then, one day, came a cable message that my father had died. The news transformed me. I knew I must return at once to New York. But--I would not take a wife back with me! Why, I know not. I was mad! And I kissed her tear-stained face, and bade her wait, for I would return and make her happy. And then--

"Months later I wrote to her, and, receiving no reply, I caused inquiry to be made. But she had gone--whither, no one knew. The old nurse, too, had disappeared. I never learned that a woman had been left at Badillo to die. And she was not known in Bogota. She was timid, and went out seldom. And then--then I thought that a marriage here would strengthen my position, for I was powerful and proud.

"Oh, the years that her sad face haunted me! I was mad, mad! I know not why, but when the _Cossack_ was built I had her portrait in gla.s.s set in the smoking room. And night after night I have sat before it and cursed myself, and implored her to forgive!"

"But--the locket?" said Father Waite.

"It came from Spain. I was Guillermo to her, and she Dolores to me.

But I had never forgotten it. Had Carmen ever worn it in my presence I must have recognized it at once. Oh, G.o.d, that she had! What would it not have saved!"

"Father!" The girl's arms were about his neck.

"But," said Ames, choking down his sorrow, "that man is dead. He, like Goliath, fought Truth, and the Truth fell upon him, crus.h.i.+ng him to powder. The man who remains with you now lives only in this little girl. And she has brought me my own son, Sidney, and another, Jose.

All that I have is theirs, and they will give it to the world. I would that she could have brought me that n.o.ble black man, Rosendo, who laid down his beautiful life when he saw that his work was done. I learn from my inquiries that he and Dona Maria lived with Don Nicolas far up the Boque river during the troublous times when Simiti was burned and devastated. And that, when the troops had gone, they returned to their desolated home, and died, within a month of each other. What do I not owe to them! And can my care of their daughter Ana and her little son ever cancel the debt? Alas, no!"

Sidney turned to the man. "Father, does Jose know that it was Kathleen whom he rescued from the Tiber in Rome, years ago, and who caused him to lose his notebook?"

Another exclamation burst from Jose. Ames shook his head. "No, Sidney, we had not told him. Ah, how small is the world! And how inextricably bound together we all are! And, Jose, I have not told you that the woman who lived and died alone in the limestone caves near Honda, and whose story you had from Don Jorge in Simiti, was doubtless the faithful old nurse of Dolores. My investigations all but confirm it.

Padre Rafael de Rincon maintained her there."

Haynerd entered the room at that moment, and with him came Miss Wall.

"Now," said Hitt softly, "the circle is complete. Carmen, may I--"

The girl rose at once and went into the music room. Those who remained sat in awed, expectant silence. Another presence stole softly in, but they saw him not. Soon through the great rooms and marble halls drifted the low, weird melody which the girl had sung, long before, in the dreary Elwin school.

In the flickering light of the fire strange shapes took form; and the shadows that danced on the walls silhouetted scenes from the dimming past. From out their weird imagery rose a single form. Into it pa.s.sed the unseen presence. Slowly it rose before them from out the shadows.

It was black of face, but its wondrous heart which had cradled the nameless babe of Badillo glistened like drifting snow.

The last sweet notes of the plaintive Indian lament fluttered from the girl's lips, echoed among the marble pillars, and died away down the distant corridors. She returned and bent over her father with a tender caress.

Then the great black man in the shadows extended his arms for a moment above them, and faded from their sight. There was the sound of low weeping in the room. For

"these are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

Carmen Ariza Part 194

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Carmen Ariza Part 194 summary

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